A respected highway safety organization backed by the insurance industry has published a study that found states that have passed laws preventing drivers from text messaging have actually seen an increase in car accidents compared to states without texting bans.
Our Chicago car accident lawyers frequently report on the dangers of text messaging; Illinois’s text messaging ban went into effect for all drivers on Jan 1; drivers in Chicago have been banned from using all hand-held cell phone devices for several years.The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post have both reported on the study released by the Highway Loss Data Institute, which is a division of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
As The Post reports, the first speeding law went into effect almost 150 years ago, but even strict enforcement has a limited impact on those drivers who insist upon speeding. The federal government blames drunk driving, speeding and distracted driving for the majority of car accidents.
The Highway Loss Data compared crash data in four states with text messaging bans with accident data in four states that have no rules prohibiting drivers from text messaging while behind the wheel. Not only did the study find no decrease in accidents, it found that accident rates actually increased in three of four states with texting bans.
“It’s an indication that texting bans might even increase the risk of texting for drivers who continue to do so despite the laws,” says Adrian Lund, president of both HLDI and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The study authors believe the increase could be the result of motorists attempting to hide their activities in states where texting and driving is illegal.
“If drivers were disregarding the bans, then the crash patterns should have remained steady,” Lund said. “So clearly drivers did respond to the bans somehow, and what they might have been doing was moving their phones down and out of sight when they texted, in recognition that what they were doing was illegal. This could exacerbate the risk of texting by taking drivers’ eyes further from the road and for a longer time.”
The Governor’s Highway Safety Association reports that 30 states have now passed laws that forbid text messaging behind the wheel, even as text messaging has become an increasingly popular means of communications. The most recent one-year period saw a 60 percent increase in text messaging, from 1 trillion texts in 2008 to 1.6 trillion in 2009.
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